We have a real treat for The Sketchbook today! RikkiJ is the SketchyPath narrator, and the newest addition to our SketchyMedical family. We were able to catch her in between SketchyPath (Part 2) recording sessions to talk about what goes on behind the scenes in the studio!
Please introduce yourself to our SketchyPath users:
Hello, my name is RikkiJ and I am your SketchyPath narrator!
I was born and raised in Denver, Colorado – where life is measured in the number of resorts on your ski pass, how many craft breweries you’ve visited, or the density of your beard.
I love science, especially biology; in college I studied biology, chemistry, and science education.
Otherwise, I have a penchant for spontaneous activities, doesn’t even really matter much what — random day hikes, last minute road trips, maybe even an impromptu Sketchy themed party. I’d dress up as a Sketchy narrator. Andrew Berg. Duh.
What led you to become the SketchyPath narrator?
I used SketchyMicro in the medical laboratory science program I was in, and thought it was amazing. I would get (probably an unhealthy level of) excited when there was a video that covered a microbe we needed to know. Once I saw the “Recruitment” opportunity on the website, I applied immediately. Initially, I was working on content remotely, collaborating with the team through Google Hangouts and Trello boards. After about a month, Bryan (the co-founder) slyly asked if I would be interested in narrating a video. We had a brief conversation about Morgan Freeman, naturally, then I sent a short audition clip. Then BOOM. Los Angeles. Hollywood. SketchyPath narrator.
What is it like behind the scenes in the recording studio?
It’s a lot of what you’d expect…like, uhhh, speaking into a mic, fancy technology, and soundproofing all over. And then some stuff you wouldn’t, like being next to a shelving unit full of random knickknacks such as a Steve Urkel candle, a roarasaurus dinosaur toy, and a basket of horror movie Blu-rays that I won playing drag queen bingo.
What was your favorite SketchyPath sketch to record, and why?
Ah! It’s so hard to choose! I really liked a lot of the renal pathology videos; partially because I have always had a soft spot for kidney physiology. Loop of Henle, AMIRITE?! The chronic kidney disease sketch is definitely one of my favorites. So many references to Jurassic Park, lots of clever symbols, and getting to sing the Jurassic Park theme song in a series of “dun”s was pretty awesome. Or embarrassing. Or better yet, a combo of the two.
What are some challenges to narrating?
Enunciating and still trying to sound casual. Also, consciously changing my pronunciation of words. For example, before I became SketchyPath narrator, I never pronounced the “t” at the end of words; like instead of “treatment” I would say “treatmen.” Silent t’s everywhere! It works well for tsunami, why not other words? Oh, here’s why not — it sounds ridiculous. As the SketchyPath narrator, I have become so much more aware of my pronunciation and enunciation in general.
How long does it take to complete a SketchyPath narration?
This probably isn’t going to blow anyone’s mind, but it really depends on the length of the script/sketch. At first, it would take me an entire day to finish one recording. I’ve gotten faster with more practice and as I ease into the role. I would say it typically takes 5 or 6X longer to record the audio track than the length of the video. I imagine I’ll keep improving my time. And hopefully make a montage of the process to “Eye of the Tiger” once I’ve peaked.
Is there a method to the narration pacing? How do you determine the pace of each narration?
I always check how long the script is right when I first get it. I break the script up and allot a certain amount of time per section (i.e. ~10 paragraphs per section, depending on how long they are); this is really helpful to keep me on task because I can be a perfectionist and it becomes really inefficient otherwise.
How closely do you work with the SketchyPath writers and creators?
They’re right outside my recording studio (they literally sit right in front of the studio)! Which is really nice, because I can barrage them with questions along the way. We usually work together in the form of Google Docs. For instance, Aaron (the Director of Content & Creative) will write in notes on how to read the narrations, or leave me notes about certain stories, or even where I should stop recording while the team works on subsequent sections. I think my favorite was: “Hey Rikki you’re so fine, you’re so fine you blow my mind….stop reading, hey hey, stop reading!”
Do you have any fun SketchyPath recording/narration stories you can share with us?
When I first started recording SketchyPath, I came in on a Saturday, but had gone out to a show with my friends the night before. Some of my friends were wearing thick glitter around their eyes and green lipstick. Needless to say, I wanted in on that.
Anyway, I accidentally left my keys locked in my apartment and had to wait until the next day for my roommate to let me in, so I just stayed at a friend’s until I went into the studio Saturday morning – but I couldn’t really change and never took off the makeup. I texted Bryan before going in saying, “Just so you know, I’m gonna look like Aquaman.” Bryan and Aaron referred to me as Aquaman the rest of the day and kept referencing other sea characters and places, like Atlantis, or other general sea-themed things. Maybe you had to be there, but I thought it was pretty hilarious.
Another shining (not actually) moment was when Aaron wrote directions in the asthma script for me to “pretend like I was talking with my mouth full from eating fruit.” I can’t PRETEND that! So I shoved half my lunch in my mouth and tried to talk. It was really hard not to laugh through it, which just made it harder. So yeah, if at any point you were like, “Oh, she’s not half bad at that.” No. I’m just gross.
What’s the best part of being part of the SketchyMedical family?
There’s so many awesome things about working at Sketchy! The office pets, the endless supply of gushers. The daily obscure 90s references.
The real best part of being a part of the Sketchy family is working with such a dedicated team. Everyone is truly passionate about the product and students, and really care about the quality of what we do and the timeline for when it’s produced. For instance, everyone really buckled down for the launch of SketchyPath (Part 1). Everyone pulled late nights, early mornings, weekends, you get it, so that we could roll out the first part of SketchyPath asap for the May and June Steppers. Everyone was willing to make the extra effort so that students had as much time as possible with the videos to use them for STEP 1 studying. I am just really proud to be a part of it.
What’s in store for SketchyPath (Part 2)? Can you give us any hints?
A lady never tells… but you might see some baby Yetis, Easter bunnies, and an island luau.
Any final thoughts?
I feel so fortunate to work for such an incredibly innovative and progressive company like Sketchy. I think many parts of higher education are an absolute travesty (pretty sure everyone who has taken even one college class could happily go the rest of their lives without ever seeing another PowerPoint presentation). I really hope students love SketchyPath as much as we do.
And also.. who is Braden?!
RikkiJ, thank you so much for taking the time out of recording to chat with us!
PS: we would love your feedback on SketchyPath (Part 1)!